Advent and Christmas in the Primary School by lanyuehua


									      ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS                     begins: “Stir up we beseech thee, O Lord,
                                               the wills of thy faithful people”.
Advent marks the beginning of the
Christian year. The word ‘Advent’ comes        St Nicholas’ Day is 6 December, and this
from a Latin word meaning ‘coming’ or          is the day when children in Europe
‘arrival’ and it is the coming of the          receive presents. Also celebrated in
Messiah which is being prepared for.           Europe is the feast-day of St Lucy or Lucia
                                               on 13 December. In Sweden the daughter
Advent begins on the fourth Sunday             of the family will wear white on St Lucia’s
before Christmas, called ‘Advent Sunday’.      Day and, with a crown of evergreens and
In the Western church this is always the       lighted candles on her head, serves special
Sunday nearest the feast of St Andrew,         Lucia cakes to her family.
which falls on 30 November. There are
four Sundays in Advent before Christmas        Christmas Eve falls on 24 December and it
Day. In the Eastern Orthodox churches          marks the final preparations for the
Advent begins in the middle of                 celebration of Jesus’ birth on Christmas
November.                                      Day, 25 December.

Originally Advent was celebrated as a          There are several important days after
penitential period like Lent but today         Christmas Day: 26 December is the feast
most of this austerity has gone. However,      of St Stephen, the first Christian to die for
weddings are still discouraged during          his faith: (see Acts 7:57-60). 27 December
Advent and people wishing to get               is the feast of the apostle St John and 28
married at this time of the year,              December is the feast of the Holy
frequently do so on St Catherine’s Day (25     Innocents: (see Matthew 2:16-17). 1
November). The Sunday before Advent            January is the feast of the Circumcision of
(Trinity 25) is traditionally known as ‘Stir   Jesus when, according to Luke 2:22ff, he
up Sunday’ and although this is often          was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem to
interpreted today as a time to make            be circumcised in accordance with the
Christmas cakes and puddings, in fact it       Law of Moses.
refers to the Collect for the day, which
The Christmas season ends on 6 January
with the feast of Epiphany, a Greek word
meaning ‘manifestation’. Originally this
marked the baptism of Jesus, as it still
does in the East, but now in the West it
commemorates the arrival of the Magi or
Wise Men at the stable.
               CHRISTMAS                        tale and miss the significance of the
                                                lowliness of Jesus’ birth.
Christmas holds a unique place in British
national life but it should be remembered       Because of the literal way in which very
that it is not the most important festival of   young children think, it seems unwise to
the Christian church.                           ‘read’ them the birth stories, or to involve
                                                them in nativity plays, until they have
There are many good experiences linked          heard a variety of other legends. Only
with Christmas which offer a valuable           then, will they have started to realise that
teaching resource e.g. the birth of a baby,     such stories contain just a basis of fact and
the joy of giving and receiving and the         will view the Christmas narratives in the
goodwill which permeates the                    same light.
                                                Inevitably they will still bring all kinds of
Although it is a Christian festival all kinds   images and understanding into the stories
of traditions, rituals, customs and             but they will have had the foundation for
fantasies have become associated with           later understanding. Teachers should be
Christmas. The wise men in the birth            familiar with the two accounts of the birth
stories have become kings and St Nicholas       of Jesus as found in Matthew’s and Luke’s
has become Father Christmas and yet, the        Gospels and should choose books about
festival still conjures delight, wonder and     the Christmas stories with great care.
enjoyment for children and adults alike.
                                                It is essential that children realise that a
The birth narratives are a valuable part of     birthday celebrates a person’s identity.
our children’s heritage but they are also       Joy of a birth in a family, love shared
highly theological documents which are          between parents and children and other
beyond the understanding of most young          relatives, should all be explored in the
children, who may well confuse angels           context of Christmas at the early stages of
with fairies or God with Father Christmas,      children’s religious development. Pupils
thinking that the Christmas story is a fairy    should be helped to recognise that Jesus
                                                was born like other babies and that he
was dependent on his mother until he          birth of a child might be lost beneath the
grew up.                                      cardboard, glue and tinsel.” I suggest that
                                              teachers who plan a developmental
Most of our children are preoccupied with     approach to teaching festivals in their
what they would like to receive as            school will prevent themselves falling into
Christmas gifts. A sensitive teacher will     this trap. The wide range of age and
bring the children’s attention to the care    ability found in our classrooms prevents
reflected in the choice of the presents and   the planning of such an approach
the love which they represent. She will       according to the children’s chronological
also turn the children’s thoughts to their    age. For this reason I have outlined four
own ‘giving’ of presents and cards and        suggested stages of religious development
help them to answer questions such as         which build on the child’s previous
“What can I do to bring joy to other          experience. All the topics give scope for
people?”                                      development in a variety of ways, taking
                                              the individual needs of children into
The commercial side of Christmas is often     account.
deplored but children should be helped to
see that trade provides a livelihood and
that indeed many of the products of
industry contribute valuably to gifts and

One Agreed Syllabus states “Christmas
activities tend to dominate the life of the
school during the second half of the
autumn term. This has brought about a
number of dangers – the over-familiarity
of the children with the story – a sense of
duty rather than celebration among
teachers; and the danger that the
simplicity of the announcement of the
                  STORIES                   NB:   All the major events of Christmas
                                                  are recorded in the New
                                                  Testament. However, both St John
     ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS                         and St Mark begin with the
                                                  baptism of Jesus and the role of St
                                                  John the Baptist. The story of the
                                                  birth of Jesus is to be found only in
          EVENT             REFERENCE             St Matthew and St Luke.

The announcement of
                         Luke 1: 5-25
the birth of
John the Baptist

The Annunciation         Luke 1: 26-38

Mary’s visit to          Luke 1: 39-56

The Birth of John the    Luke 1: 57-80

The Birth of Jesus       Matthew 2: 1-12
The Birth of Jesus and   Luke 2: 1-20
visit of the Shepherds

The Visit of the Magi    Matthew 2: 1-12

The Flight into Egypt    Matthew 2: 13-18
and the
Massacre of the Holy

The Circumcision of      Luke 2: 21-40
Jesus and the
Presentation in the
THE CHRISTMAS CANDLE                 And when I blew the candle out
                                     How dark the darkness seemed.
Last night I took a Christmas
      candle to my room
To watch the curving beauty of the
Against the dark.
But when I turned, I was amazed
How light the darkness had
      become –
Could that much light come from
      one small flame?
And when I blew the candle out
How dark the darkness seemed.

And I remembered, long ago in a
Lay the first Christmas candle
A newborn child
So helpless and so small.

Last night I took a Christmas
      candle to my room
To watch the curving beauty of the
Against the dark.
But when I turned, I was amazed
How light the darkness had
      become –
Could that much light come from
      one small flame?
        THE OXEN                I should go with him in the
CHRISTMAS EVE                   Hoping it might be so.
And twelve of the clock.
‘Now they are all on their
An elder said as we sat in a
By the embers in hearthside

We pictured the meek mild
         creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy
Nor did it occur to one of us
To doubt they were kneeling

So fair a fancy few would
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on
         Christmas Even,
‘Come’, see the oxen kneel
‘In the lonely barton by
         yonder Coomb
Our childhood used to
                       EPIPHANY               and Balthasar as youthful, middle-aged
                                              and old-aged and one of them is usually
St Matthew in his version of the Gospel       dark-skinned.
tells how wise men came to Jerusalem at
the time of Christ’s birth and inquired for   The gifts of the magi to the Christ-child
the child who had been born King of the       have symbolic meanings :-
Jews. Herod, the King of Judea, sent them
to find Jesus in Bethlehem, and a star        Gold              -   for a king
went before them showing them the way.        Frankincense -        for the divine
                                              Myrrh             -   for one who suffers
When the wise men found Jesus, they fell
down and worshipped him and presented         For Christians, the gifts represent the
him with gifts of gold, frankincense and      offering to Christ of wealth, adoration and
myrrh. This event is often referred to as     self-sacrifice.
‘The Adoration of the Magi’.

Traditionally the magi are often depicted
as kings because of the passage from the
Old Testament which says, “The kings of
Tarshish and the isles shall bring
presents… all kings shall fall down before
him’. (Psalm 72:10-11).

The church celebrates this event with the
season of Epiphany which begins on 6
January. Epiphany means ‘The
Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles’
and it is a time which signifies the
spreading of Christianity to all lands, to
all peoples, for all ages. Pictures often
portray the three kings Caspar, Melchior
       A STORY FOR EPIPHANY                     He had not gone far, however, before he
                                                saw a fierce rat shouting at some little
                                                mice to give him all their store of food.
      THE FOURTH WISE MOUSE                     For a moment the fourth wise mouse
                                                hesitated, for he did so wish to bring his
                                                three pieces of cheese as a gift; but then he
Once upon a time there were three wise          made up his mind and called out to the
mice. They lived some miles away from           rat: “Here! Take this.” Then sadly he
here in very grand holes. Their nests           went on his way.
were soft and warm, their coats were
sleek, and their tummies were always            For a time he walked on, wondering what
well filled with satisfying food. They          he would find at the end of his journey,
were good and kind, and were respected          when he heard faint crying from the
by their friends and neighbours.                hedgerow. He peered in, and there he
                                                saw a family of hungry young mice
These wise mice were able to look up at         crying for their mother, whom they had
the stars, and to understand from them          not seen for days. So he called out to
what God was telling them: so it was that       them: “Here’s a lump of cheese for you.”
one night, when they saw a new star, they       He enjoyed helping them, but then he
agreed to follow it.                            remembered that he had only piece left.

All through the night they travelled            He trudged on until he saw in the
across fields, over bridges, along country      distance the coloured light streaming
roads, until at last they came in the early     from the windows of the old village
morning to an old village church.               church, and he hurried on with his one
                                                remaining gift. So eager was he to get
Through the stained-glass windows the           there that he never saw the thin old Field
light shone out in lovely colours, and          Mouse until he bumped into him.
through the open door they saw a
Christmas crib. So it was that those three      “I’m sorry, friend”, he said, but the old
wise mice scrambled up into the sweet-          mouse was too weak to reply, and just
smelling hay of the crib and laid their gifts   looked up at him with his great sad eyes
down in front of the tiny baby, a figure no     from the ground where he lay. With a
bigger than they were: gifts of corn, and       heavy heart our traveller gave his last
bread and chocolate.                            piece of cheese to this starving stranger.

Meanwhile, some distance away, lived            Slowly he went up the path and into the
another mouse, as wise as the firs three.       church, where stood the crib. He saw the
He too lived comfortably, his nest was          figures of Mary and Joseph there, with the
snug, his clothes fine, and his food ample.     Christ Child between them.
He saw the same star, and also set off
with his gifts. He had three pieces of          Beside the manger lay some little bits of
cheese to bring, which had him a lot to         corn and bread and chocolate. For a
buy from the old shop mouse down the            moment the fourth wise mouse stood
lane.                                           there with tears in his eyes because he had
                                                come empty-handed.
Then quite suddenly, as he waited in the
hay beside the little figures of the
Christmas crib, he seemed to hear a voice:
“Well done, my little mouse. The gifts
you gave you gave to me, you know!”

(Source: Church Times 6 January 1989)

Three Kings came riding from far away,
Melchior and Caspar and Balthasar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they
slept by day
For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful

The star was so beautiful, large and clear,
That all the other stars of the sky
Became a white mist in the atmosphere,
And by this they knew that the coming
was near
Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.

Three caskets they bore on their saddle-
Three caskets of gold with golden keys;
Their robes were of crimson silk with
Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows,
Their turbans like blossoming almond-
trees …

So they rode away; and the star stood still,
The only one in the grey of morn;
Yes, it stopped, it stood still of its own
free will,
Right over Bethlehem on the hill,
The City of David, where Christ was born
THE JOURNEY OF THE MAGI                 Six hands at an open door dicing
 “A cold coming we had of it,           for pieces of silver,
 Just the worst time of the year        And feet kicking the empty wine-
 For a journey, and such a long         skins,
 journey:                               But there was no information, so
 The ways deep and the weather          we continued
 sharp,                                 And arrived at evening, not a
 The very dead of winter.”              moment too soon
 And the camels galled, sorefooted,     Finding the place; it was (you may
 refractory,                            say) satisfactory.
 Lying down in the melting snow.
 There were times we regretted          All this was a long time ago, I
 The summer palaces on slopes, the      remember,
 terraces,                              And I would do it again, but set
 And the silken girls bringing          down
 sherbet.                               This set down
 Then the camel men cursing and         This: were we led all that way for
 grumbling                              Birth or Death ? There was a Birth,
 And running away, and wanting          certainly,
 their liquor and women,                We had evidence and no doubt. I
 And the night-fires going out, and     had seen birth and death,
 the lack of shelters,                  But had thought they were
 And the cities hostile and the         different; this Birth was
 towns unfriendly                       Hard and bitter agony for us, like
 And the villages dirty and             Death, our death.
 charging high prices:                  We returned to our places, these
 A hard time we had of it.              Kingdoms,
 At the end we preferred to travel      But no longer at ease here, in the
 all night,                             old dispensation,
 Sleeping in snatches,                  With an alien people clutching
 With the voices singing in our ears,   their gods.
 saying                                 I should be glad of another death.
 That this was all folly.                 CROWN OF LIGHT FESTIVAL

 Then at dawn we came down to a
 temperate valley,                                   Stars gleaming
 Wet, below the snow line, smelling                  overhead,
 of vegetation,                                             Evening air’s
 With a running stream, and a                        clear,
 water-mill beating the darkness,                           And Advent is
 And three trees in the low sky.                     here,
 And an old white horse galloped                            Now in
 away in the meadow.                                 Sweden.
 Then we came to a tavern with                       Golden-haired girls
 vine-leaves over the lintel,                               In each village
                                                     and town
                      Wear a white
              flowing gown,
                      Now in
              With a crown of
              green leaves,
                      And candles
              all bright,
                      On St Lucia’s
                      Now in
              Snowflakes are
                      As bells start
              to ring,
                      And the
              children’s choir sing,
                      Now in

       David Bateson

From “Let’s Celebrate” by John Foster
            NEW YEAR

                       This night
                       Of all the
                       Is the year’s
                       All, all
                       The other
                    Are gone, are
              past …

                       The evening,
                       Its fading light
                       Put the lid
                       On the hour
                       And close it

                       Close up
                       Your tired eye;
                       Close up the
                       Bid the old
                       And come

              Jean Kennward

From “Let’s Celebrate” by John Foster

Matthew 1:18 – 2:23
      Birth at Bethlehem in a
      Visit of the Magi – a star
      Flight to Egypt
      Massacre of the Innocents
      Return to Nazareth

Luke 2:1 – 2:52
      Visit of the angel Gabriel
      Census of Caesar Augustus
      Journey from Nazareth to
      Birth of Jesus in a manger
      Visit of the Shepherds
      The Journey to Jerusalem
      Return to Nazareth

Giving presents, Sending cards
Lighting candles, Singing carols
Making Christingle, Advent
Performing pantomime
Making a crib
Eating special food
Decorating a tree, Hanging holly
and mistletoe
Performing nativity plays

Gifts and giving
Light and darkness
Christmas traditions – past and
Concern for the poor and the
Homes and families
Christmas in the media


God entering the world:

Jesus as God’s gift

Jesus as the light of God in the
    STAGE 1       STAGE 2       STAGE 3      STAGE 4

The Christmas      The Christmas     Signs and symbols The Christmas
story in pictures  Story – told      of Christmas      story told in art,
– using            Christmas         The Christmas     poetry, music,
Christmas cards    customs           Story – read      stamps
                   Christmas                           Christmas and
                   legends and tales                   the media
Legends of         Christmas at      Christmas in the  Christmas
Christmas –        home              community past    customs abroad
Father Christmas                     and present       The history of
etc.                                                   Christmas foods
Christmas Trees                      Charities at      Old Testament
                                     Christmas         prophecies of
                                     Ancient winter    Jesus’ birth

Parties and        Seasonal foods  Christmas            Cooking
preparations                       messages             Christmas foods
Decorations        Decorations     Other festivals,     The Christian
Party foods and    Christmas cards E.g. St Nicholas, St celebration of
seasonal foods     and gifts       Lucia, St Stephen    Christmas, e.g.
Presents           Christmas songs Decorations          advent,
Party hats         and carols      Christmas            Christingles,
                   Pantomime and   entertainment        Blessing of the
                   drama                                Crib, Advent
                                                        services, carols
                                                        The Christmas
                                                        story in mime
                                                        and drama
Homes and   Growth            Gifts and         Loneliness, rejection,
families    Colour at         giving            i.e. “No room at the
Babies      Christmas         Sheep and         Inn”
Birthdays   The Twelve Days   shepherds         Commercialisation of
Names       of Christmas      Light and         Christmas
Postmen     Birth             darkness          Christmas in the
            announcements     Naming            media
            etc.              ceremonies        Joy, Happiness
                              Nature at
                              Christmas –
                              holly, mistletoe,
                              fir cones etc.

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